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HMRC warns (again) over tax refund phishing scams

Marks still sending their account info to email fraudsters

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UK taxpayers were officially warned on Friday to have nothing to do with supposed tax refund emails that have begun circulating since the deadline for self-assessment tax returns expired on Monday.

The scam emails claim the recipients (prospective marks) are entitled to a tax refund, which can supposedly be claimed after handing over credit card and other banking details to a linked website. In reality, the replica site of the real HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that the email recipients are invited to visit is designed simply to con the gullible into handing over their banking credentials to fraudsters for later abuse. Victims who fall for the phishing ruse risk finding their bank accounts emptied rather than enriched and their personal information sold to other crooks through underground carding forums.

Over the last three months alone, HMRC has shut down 99 websites involved in fake tax rebate emails. Over the last 18 months alone, scam networks have been shut down in Austria, Mexico, the UK, South Korea, the USA, Thailand and Japan. Despite these enforcement actions – and the ease of avoiding becoming a victim – the scam shows no signs of dying off any time soon.

Government officials say that legitimate tax refund applications are always processed by post rather than by email.

Chris Hopson, director of customer contact at HMRC, commented: “As a matter of policy, HMRC will only ever contact customers who are due a tax refund in writing by post. If anyone receives an email offering a tax rebate claiming to be from HMRC, we recommend they send it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk before deleting it permanently.” ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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